Saturday, May 17, 2008

No, Virginia...

There are so many reasons that I love the Dresden Dolls, and their newest album, "No, Virginia..." just reaffirms all of those reasons. Let's start with the fact that they have such a full, theatrical sound that you forget there's only two of them - Amanda Palmer on piano & vocals and Brian Viglione on drums. Both are so talented and have such a mastery over their instruments. They also work extremely well together so they have this great cohesion as a duo. Amanda's skillful piano-playing continues to astound me and Brian accompanies her so flawlessly.

"No, Virginia..." comes out May 20th but you can pre-order it now and be entered in a contest to win fun prizes. For those of you familiar with the Dresden Dolls (which really should be all of you because they're wonderful...) I would venture to say that "No, Virginia..." is slightly less playful than "Yes, Virginia..." Amanda still seems to have fun playing with words (and she is extremely gifted at doing so), but the overall sound seems more serious. It seems to me that a number of the songs have a sense of loss of innocence and a bit of nostalgia for times past. Perhaps that is the difference between "Yes, Virginia..." (which was inspired by a little girl's letter to Santa Claus) and "No, Virginia..." Now Virginia is all grown up, so the album is less sportive and tongue-in-cheek and is more solemn and pensive.

The album starts out with the fun Dear Jenny, which seems almost reminiscent of '80s hair metal or arena rock, with the selective yelling of certain words ("...for drastic MEASURES" or "we wave our flags into the CAMERA"). Next is the playful and almost nostalgic song about adolescent revenge and not fitting in, Night Reconnaissance. Then the album slows down for a few songs, only to suddenly go into a frenzy with track #6 (my favorite track), the creepy, delirious, theatrical and occasionally funny Lonesome Organist Rapes Page Turner. It's a song that makes you feel evil when you find a lyric humorous. From there, the album settles into a much more medium rock-n-roll pace, until the last two tracks when it slows down again with the beautiful but dark lullaby-like Sheep Song and the soft but dramatic Boston.

I have been looking forward to this album since I saw them play a song or two from it at their New Year's Eve concert and it is as fabulous as I thought it would be. I guess the only even somewhat unfortunate thing about the album is that I believe this album was recorded before/around the time Amanda's vocal chord surgery for her nodes - a singer's enemy, poor Amanda - and there are a few moments when I can tell that her voice is struggling to reach it's usual level of amazingness. Then again, I have had vocal training and I listen to the Dresden Dolls so much that most normal (read: not obsessed) people probably wouldn't even be able to tell.

On a side note, The Dresden Dolls will also be releasing "The Virginia Companion" - a photo and music book for the albums "Yes, Virginia..." and "No, Virginia..." - at some point in the hopefully not-too-distant future. I have "The Dresden Dolls Companion" (see left) and it is the best compilation of contemporary sheet music that I've ever seen. So many contemporary artists who release sheet music simplify it to such a ridiculous level that it barely even sounds like the same song. It especially upsets me with artists like Tori Amos, where her beautiful and complex piano parts entrance me and then her sheet music has three chords written on it. "The Dresden Dolls Companion" is actually true to the complexity of the music. They don't dumb it down for us. It's no ordinary music book either. It is full of photos, artwork, and behind-the-scenes statements from Amanda about her inspiration, experiences and thoughts. Plus the sheet music is filled with little hand-written notations (presumably from Amanda) such as "(these stops are more random, a la a skipping record... repeat at will...)" and "FAST & PSYCHOTIC....sloppy is better, esp. in the right hand." It adds a nice personal Dresden Dolls touch.

So there you have it. Go buy the CD. And the companion when it comes out. Even if you don't play the piano. It's worth it, I promise.

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